I dive to see the fish (in the sea). I take pictures. Hey! It’s what I do for fun now. Some people like watching paint dry. I don’t watch golf. I played tennis. They told me there are golf courses in Jeddah. Imagine that?! Too hot!
The flip side – go to a fish market and they have displays with untold numbers of squid and octopus. It’s a very big part of the seven fishes feast at Christmas for Italian Americans. I heard about this for years from Ginny.
I will insert an aside – non sequitur – but sort of related. When I was a kid, my dad came home with a live carp. How? He, like many Chinese, love fresh fish. How? He brought it home from the market in paper and it was still alive. How? He put it into the bathtub and it swam. Ah! No more baths for me…ever! I tell you, that was exactly my thought process in that moment. A bit later he slaughtered that fish. Yes, he cut off its head and I saw blood and the tail flopping. I was changed forever. And that memory sits burning brightly. I also realized that baths would resume shortly after.
When I learned to dive, I quickly found out that seeing octopi is rare. They do not congregate. They are very shy and solitary. Which translates – they are hard to see and harder to photograph – if you see them in the first place.
Ah! I was early to the resort. I was meeting some other divers. There are tourists in the water. And! Whoa! One caught an octopus bare handed. I moved in for a photograph. No problem. Then… he strangled it in his bare hands! It turned all colors and tried to camouflage itself till it died and reverted to plain brown. The killer left it in the Styrofoam cooler with life juices on the bottom while he sought other prey.
Yeah, I was stunned. If I had to slaughter my own cow, for sure I’d be a vegetarian… It was pretty graphic to watch him kill dinner in front of me.
Ah! No secret! And you figured this was coming. An excuse to post dive shots! Free divers – their name – it means no scuba. Scuba – self-contained underwater apparatus – you knew that, right? I started very basic. I have a good camera. Nope! It’s not going underwater. It would break my heart to wreck it with saltwater. Be sure that at some point every camera has some saltwater.
It’s not good. I have personally fried a couple cameras before I learned to dive. I have a healthy respect for watertight. It’s very hard to do. And it’s easy. I see other divers casually treat their stuff. And I watched a poor guy fry his iPhone. Yup, dead. It was pretty funny watching him try to revive it. No, rice did not work.
It was about as funny as watching my kids when they each respectively dropped their cellphone into the toilet. Now ask yourself, how was it so, that I was there when it happened to each of them at different times? Yup. Timing! There’s a story. And so I bought insurance for each phone. And it cost ?$99. And I used it once. Yes, one kids had another water accident. And I denied it fell in water. And after the accounting, it was break even. The cost of insurance was the same as the phone.
That happened with my last Volvo. I got the extended warranty. $1500. And wouldn’t you know it. Nada! Till… the alternator went. Interesting. The car died just outside a McD’s in Maine. And wouldn’t you know it! There was a Sears down the block. Towed – AAA – first time I used that insurance too. But no, it was the alternator. New battery died at the intersection a few days later. The new alternator cost $1500 – break even. No, I do not buy extended warranty any more.
So, the free divers wear camo – and they are elegant looking. The purpose is to dive to reach depth on one breath and surface again. Not too interesting a process, but they call it fun. Long fins, a small weight belt, a snorkel. They hang weights off a rope and go up and down. I’m good in my gear and tank and one hour ticket to see the fishies.
There are things to see! One instructor kindly pointed into the blue. A school of fish approached. If it is the first time to see this, you should be duly impressed. It is a nightmare. With open mouths, it looks like they are on the hunt and you are the meal in their sights. Yeah! They swam around us. And then left. I got a few shots. The behavior? Beats the heck out of me. I was there. I have seen it again. I see these fish all the time when they are not exhibiting this behavior. But once in a while they school and swim with their mouths open. And it is impressive. Really! You don’t see this every day. And yes, I’m still impressed when they do this. Fierce! If you can see, they just have their mouths open. The gills are spread wide. There’s nothing. It’s the classic “Bark worse than your bite!” I’m suitably impressed – I told you, right?
If you look closely, real close, it has the face of a lion. Now I did not notice this before. But then again I don’t get very close to boxer shrimp. I would, but, they don’t let me. Not enough interest to be a meal. And I don’t much like shrimp too much. They have lone antennae. Way long! Really long! Long enough that I don’t try to show you the whole antenna or the shrimp would be too small in the picture. And if you get in close, here’s what I noticed. It looks like four antennae are sprouting. And the eyes are small. So, perhaps, that is why the antennae as a warning sign. And then the face. “It’s a face only a mother could love.” It has nothing redeeming except that if I were designing a horror movie mask, I would start here. Oh, three claws on the one side. Smaller ones. Functional? The details I see as I get closer and closer… I learn something new all the time. It’s really nice to keep finding out new things. But if I had the six lottery numbers….
Fast. The shells were moving like a three card monte shell game. They are active at night. New houses – shells – are a premium. Poor snails. I wonder if they move out or are eaten. The adults move slowly and deliberately and cautiously. The little guys scuttle. I mean they move fast enough that I have to actually catch them and hold them. I could not see this one. He was translucent. Early. Juvenile. And I guess a morsel. So the faster you are the better your chance to survive to adulthood. The shell is so tiny. First home! One bedroom, no room to expand. Starter place. My kids live in small apartments. I have a five-bedroom villa for the cats and me. It doesn’t seem fair. I’d share but they don’t want to live here. Location, location, location.
Green eyes – the water is green, grey. Does that mean the green eye pigment helps? The only reason you see the color I show in my pictures is because the strobe has compensated for the lack of red color underwater. It returns daylight colors to the otherwise green looking see. And then there is the matter of “red eye.” Light reflects off the retina of people and produces “red eye.” You knew that, right? So here you see the red eye. It looks orange to me. And here you don’t. So, see, it works. I love it when science works!
I wrote this post in my head and then never put it to paper. Someone I know laughs. I have no blank paper in my villa. I have, maybe, a pen and I don’t think there is a pencil. And, I’d dearly like to have a ruler. I needed to measure my bed mattress. Who knew? There are king and super king bed sheets. One does not fit the other. And I was put out that my sheets were too short. Yeah, so I measured. My hand span is roughly 9 inches. It’s a nice number to know. But this ain’t horseshoes. And the difference in sheet size is not so large. Anyway, it’s standard king. I got a measuring tape from the hospital. We use it to measure baby head sizes. I will parenthetically add, that tape is free too. I was shocked to actually buy a roll of adhesive tape (not related to measuring tape) in the drug store. Really?! They charge that much? No wonder medical costs are out of control.
So, meandering along the bottom on a night dive this puffer appeared out of the dark. …Lots of people hate the dark. And night dives seem to bring out the fears in even more detail. After all, monsters of the deep come out of the dark and eat whole ships! Oh my! But mostly I think “JAWS” the movie is a lingering memory. Shark! Attack! And even if you never saw the movie, there’s plenty of limbs and life injuries around the world with unwary unfortunate swimmers. If it’s any consolation, sharks like fatty seals. They get few meals. So when they taste human, there’s not enough fat, they spit you out. It’s nice to know you don’t pass the taste test. So mostly you don’t get eaten. I dunno, I think the very bright LED light is calling sharks to dinner, “Here sharky. Here sharky. Dinner!” And if you are ever on a night dive with me, and, my light goes out, “Well, dinner is served. Him (the diver next to me), not me…” Yes, be afraid… be very afraid.
Anyway, this poor puffer – white spotted puffer – was just down along the bottom. And it’s not common enough to see that I pass an opportunity to take a picture. And as I shot I saw something in its mouth. Was it eating another fish? Nope. A hook. A shiny reflection, the darned thing was embedded and would stay for the rest of his life. Now if he would only let me help…. Yeah, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you…”
Boy oh boy! Some dives you see hermit crab and some dives you see cuttlefish. I saw babie cuttlefish! They were very shy! And I saw this guy at the end of the dive. It made my dive. He was not able to get away and I got plenty of good stuff. He changes color and camouflage.
It’s quite fast. The babies don’t do as well or as quickly. But big ones have to start somewhere. There is a crescent under the eye. Or it that an eyelid? And you can see the pigment sacs which allow the animal to change quickly. Finally, there is ink. Squirt it and it confuses the predator. It works. One did and it confused me and I could not acquire the target again. As long as you see it moving, you can keep photographing. But if it stays still, then it is pretty hard to see. The human eye is way more sensitive to movement. Survival! It’s genetic! Science! Hurray!
I’ve been giving wide berth to the urchins. The needles are sharp! How sharp? They can easily pierce my 3mm wet suit. Have you ever seen or heard a grown man cry underwater. Don’t try this at home! The first time was when I put my hand down to steady my camera. Yup! The needles went through my glove and into my hand. Damage done, I debated whether to take the picture or to pull the needles. I took the picture, of course. It was a puffer fish that our dive instructor trapped and thereby caused it to puff out. It was impressive to me as a novice diver. And then, when I went to get the needles out, I brushed my wet suit to scrape them off. The other end of the needle is just as sharp. Damn! Pain and then again, I was crying except you cannot really cry underwater. Laughing yet? When we emerged everyone had a good laugh. I threw out the glove. The wet suit still stung for a while but I had to keep it. And my hand was tattooed with lots of needles embedded. You don’t remove them. They eventually dissolve. I am not one to wait. So the next day my assistant and I were in the operating room with the Zeiss operating microscope removing the needles under high magnification. It was my left hand. I’m left handed. No easy task, except, that I had trained myself to use both hands to operate. But it was still not easy.
This disco thing? Well, for the first time I noticed the anatomy of the urchin. It has a disco ball that wave/rotates. Don’t know why, but, it is colorful. And colorful is what is interesting in underwater photography. I got a couple – well, more than a couple – shots. It seems that this is standard anatomy. Where have I been? Yes! Neat. Another detail underwater from an unexpected subject and I didn’t even have to get hurt doing it.
It’s summer. Summer is defined by the equinox, or, by the babies that abound in the sea. It’s a baby cuttlefish. (Check the last post) I was practicing my newfound technique of annoying all the urchins. Cuttlefish babies hide beneath. And then I am constantly amazed what shows up in my image. I’m old…vision could be better. Ask my kids, they could regale you with tales… Yes! A little tiny fish was there on the rock next to him. Unexpected finds happen. Here, I got two fish. I grant that the detail is lacking. And you are less than impressed. They eyes on the fish at least give you some reference. The cuttlefish looks like a little gray blob. And, I assure you, that is exactly how he wants you not to notice him.
The problem with things that camouflage well, is that there is not much to capture on your image. There’s no eye to really see. But if you imagine how much fun it is to discover one underwater it would sure help this post. It helps to know where to look and what to look for. So first, I discovered – just now – that urchins are the big protectors of small creatures. Urchins are chicken too, as in the sense of being timid, not as in, “tastes like chicken.” Moving the urchins around annoys them. Sorry! But it also allows me to see what is hiding nearby. You can’t do this with shrimp. They are way too skittish.
But the purpose of the camouflage is that you don’t see them. Standing still is a key to that. I suppose there is also something to be said for, “Don’t let ‘em see you blink.” I don’t see eyes (theirs) too well. If I did know all of this, it would be really easy to miss this tiny creature and mistake it for debris. The juveniles are not that good at all of this. So they stay for a while and move off like a shot. I got two shots of two different baby cuttlefish. And the third got away. That percentage of success gave me very few choices in deciding which pictures to post…. All of them!